No matter how much one attempts to enjoy a work of cinematic science fiction, one cannot help but feel robbed. This is what the makers of ‘Oblivion’ have done. They promised something fantastic and poured $120,000,000 into an intriguing concept, so intriguing that even with a marketing campaign featuring Tom Cruise looking bored…
I still felt compelled to watch this thing.
What went wrong, I asked myself walking out of the theatre. I should have enjoyed this. On a basic level, I did, somewhat. But what spoilt it for me, a hungry consumer of all things sci-fi?
Like a drone technician, my mind went back and investigated the faults in the film, and found them. Here is a fix-list of what I feel went wrong in what could have been a masterpiece.
Ditch the opening intro and voice-over and work the back story into the first act of the film, instead of bashing the audience with the ‘you’re too stupid to understand anything’ stick.
Humanity fends off an alien invasion, sends out astronauts to Titan (complete with hibernation technology), builds a massive tetrahedral space station, and is attempting the colonisation of Titan.
- In 2017 we won’t be going to the moon let alone travelling to Titan on a ship with the design and capabilities as the ‘Odyssey’.
- Winning a war against interstellar colonists would have been a little more plausible if ‘how we beat them‘ was actually explained. Though we ‘beat them’ in countless other films, this film needs this at the beginning more desperately than “Independence Day”, “Battleship” or “War of the Worlds”. Having Jack Harper state “We won the war” two times doesn’t help at all. It only emphasises how the plot will unfold. The minute I hear Tech 49 say it the second time I’m already guessing the major plot twist… “Oh yeah, we lost the war.” which kinda spoils it.
- If the world was obliterated, say sometime between, 2017 and 2077, how would humanity construct this Tet, build The Bubble Ship, drones, hydrorigs and the work tower thousands of feet above the Earth? Where are the infrastructure, the factories and the people? In the Tet? When did they build it? 2018? 2020? 2040?
Having these questions floating around detracted me from enjoying the film, preventing me from suspending belief and going along for the ride. Simple fix. A solution that would not have affected the budget one dollar. Set the damn thing a hundred years in the future. Having the film play out between 2117 to 2177 makes better sense. This way one could sit through this movie and easily accept all these technological advancements by humanity. Even winning a war against alien conquistadors.
Why? Titan’s surface temperature is about −179 °C. It has a surface gravity of 0.14 g, slightly less than that of the Moon, and its atmosphere contains hydrogen cyanide. This is terraforming technology suited to the twenty-second or (more likely twenty third century. Did they steal this technology from the aliens? Then say so, if the filmmaker wants Jack Harper and Victoria (i.e. the audience.) to believe this scenario. Say something. Anything. Why Titan damn it?
Four: It’s Morgan Freeman.
OK, the guy (and the voice) is awesome. But when you are already struggling with suspending your audience’s belief, the last thing you want to say is, “it’s Morgan Freeman. He’s an actor. This is a Hollywood movie.”
Having some unknown, charismatic, actor do the trick would have worked far more convincingly. If they absolutely, positively had to have Mr Freeman in the picture, then have his character be a familiar face to the protagonist. Have him be a crew member of the “Odyssey”. Having someone familiar to Jack Harper and the audience softens the “It’s Morgan Freeman” blow.
Five: The Odyssey
The ‘Odyssey’ plot point seemed a confusing mess. The scavs blew the spaceship out of orbit to place Jack Harper on the trajectory towards the truth. Ahhh… very forced and unnatural. In 2017, The NASA spacecraft was near Titan when it was ordered (communicating live from mission control, with, Jesus Christ no delay whatsoever) to intercept the Tet. See, they’ll painstakingly emulate the lack of gravity in the spacecraft, but physics suddenly breaks down for plot convenience. Go figure. Jack ‘the astronaut’ then ejects the module containing the sleeping capsules to orbit Earth, 1.67 billion km away. How the hell did this happen?
If it were set in 2117 and Malcolm Beech (Freeman) was an astronaut on board the ‘Odyssey’ who guided the ship back to earth, then it would make greater sense, notwithstanding the Tet aliens somehow failing to notice and destroy the ‘Odyssey’.
Six: The Scavs.
These remnants of Earth’s civilisation want to prove to Jack that they are human yet they disguise themselves as Aliens. Makes no sense. Have astronaut Malcolm Beech arrive on the scene and come up with the plan to stop hiding under the stealth ware and re-educate one of the feared Jack Harpers. This would fix this problem.
Seven: The Hydrorigs.
Mining water? It would be easier to mine the Oort cloud. Delete this crap. Just have drones hunting life. Have big floating drone bases that need to be protected. Hunting life on Earth safeguards mining operations in the Oort cloud. It still would be feasible for the aliens to take such precautions.
Why clones? Why do the aliens go to elaborate lengths to use human clones with fake memories when they can just use mindless robots to operate the mining operation? Without an answer to that one, the film has no… logic.
Sure, it’s nice (and creepy) to have this mystery, but having a character say the magic words, “Why clones”, and throw around a few theories, would suffice. It would work wonders. Simple stuff. Ask “Why clones?” and you engage the audience. Not addressing the elephant in the cinema left me confused, trying to work it all out, and missing half the movie.
Nine: What about all the other Technicians?
There must be at least 51 of them. A hundred. Instead of wasting time and money on dodgy-looking, clichéd canyon battles between drones and the Bubble Ship, spend more time with the Technicians. Not all would have evolved the same personalities. Some turn out bad, vindictive, or psychotic. Addressing the fate of all the remaining Jacks’ and Victoria’s, even noting the fact that they existed, would have strengthened the ending.
It’s a damn shame. This could have been a revered film much like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. All it takes is a few fixes. What is mind-numbing is the fact that budget or marketing didn’t seem to have mattered. The film was going to make money no matter what. The concept is that good.
4 thoughts on “Tech 62 repairs ‘Oblivion’”
very good review with an interesting approach, probably the best I have seen, nice one! I liked some things about the movie ( I reviewed it too) but I have seen some very generous reviews to say the least. You are right too that it could have been in the 2001 ball park, it’s premise and feel had a lot going for it but never got there did it. (FYI I got here through reddit moviecritic and up-voted, always worth knowing where your traffic comes from)
yes, finally got my head around the power of reddit. This film is an enigma, a difficult one to rate, hence my frustration.
I really enjoyed this film… yes, I grimaced with the real-time communication from somewhere in deep space, but it wasn’t as bad as Kirk talking to Scotty in a nightclub in real-time using a handheld communicator at a distance of dozens of light years!
And, like you, at the end of Oblivion I expected dozens of Jacks converging on the hut. Awkward! But for me, the suspension of disbelief worked… I’m not sure if it was the sweeping vistas or a desire to immerse myself, but I was absorbed by the story-line and not thinking too much about inconsistencies like the Tet being built in 2017 and Titan being colonized, but you’re absolutely correct… I did think Earth looked pretty darn hospitable for a technologically advanced human civilization, after all Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt, why not alien-nuked New York?
The concept was great, the visuals and design were stunning, and The Cruise was in his natural habitat, but I really had a hard time suspending disbelief with this one, and this coming from a person who has watched a lot of sci-fi. I had a much easier time sitting through Upside Down (2012). Thanks for your thoughts, and yes, come to think of it, why not rebuild alien-nuked New York. Cheaper than building the TET. As a clone, that very question would burn me the entire mission.
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